SADC: Economic independence must

THE just-ended Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit came at a time the region is working hard to strengthen trade among its member states.
We are happy that the regional grouping’s leadership has prioritised weaning the region from dependence on western donors.
There is a realisation that SADC can only spur economic growth and poverty reduction when its member states look within and exploit all available opportunities for trade and political co-operation.
The onus is on the secretariat to ensure that all the programmes mooted at the summit, which ended yesterday, are implemented expeditiously.
The task the secretariat has now is ensuring that the region benefits from the exploitation of its vast natural resources.
Wealth creation through value addition should be the mantra resonating across the entire region for the benefit of its peoples.
There is also need to strength intra-regional trade so that member states can benefit from one another’s comparative advantage.
It is gratifying that SADC has set as priority number one the improvement of the well-being of the region’s people.
This should form the core of all the programmes the regional body will be implementing until the next summit.
In fact it should be the focus of the current review of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan.
There is a lot of potential for growth as some of Africa’s fastest growing economies are found in the sub-Saharan region.
Zambia is one of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies and recently the Thomson Reuters Foundation named it as Africa’s third most dynamic economy after Ghana and Kenya.
Other member states should take advantage of the factors that have placed the country among the world’s most promising economies.
The country has been posting steady economic growth averaging six percent in the last five years, and has been participating in efforts aimed at boosting the regional economy.
Two such efforts are the Batoka power generation project and the Kazungula Bridge construction project, which are joint ventures mooted jointly by  Zambia and Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Boosting electrical energy and improving the movement of people and goods around the region are critical to addressing its over-dependence on donor support.
This is why we agree with the theme of this year’s SADC summit, which was ‘SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Benefication and Value Addition’.
We are confident that the new SADC chairman, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, and this team will focus on human development.
The region’s expectations from Mr Mugabe and his team are high considering the various pronouncements made at the summit by the heads of state and government who were in attendance.
This region is endowed with vast natural resources, which can be exploited sustainably and transformed into wealth.
The catch-word should be value addition as the theme of the summit emphasised.
It is unacceptable for the region to be exporting raw and semi-processed natural resources such as minerals, timber and farm produce.
The multinational corporations that are extracting these resources are reaping a fortune while the people of their host countries are wallowing in abject poverty.
Worse still, these companies have been investing very little in the communities in which they operate.
In most cases they have been running cosmetic corporate social responsibility programmes aimed at hoodwinking the host governments that their operations are benefiting local people.
What we are trying to say is that now is the time SADC should stop feeding on crumbs from the foreign investors’ table and take control of its own natural resources.